Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Legacy of Great Men

"Life is sure sometimes full of misery."

Wise words from my Papaw, from a heavy heart, to my heavy heart.

This past week, the world lost two of the finest men that I've been privileged to know.  My Uncle JB was a family man, a community man, a man of loyalty and honor and loving God. He loved my Aunt Jo better than life itself, was a wonderful Dad, granddad, and great-grandpa, and a best friend to my Papaw.

And my Uncle Dennis.  I don't know that I have the words to even describe all that he was.

He was a man of great stature, but an even bigger heart. He had a laugh that could shake the walls of a room. He was always willing to help. Always believed the best about people... without being naïve. He knew people could be bad... but he loved them for who they were.

As I've read all of the comments that I've seen on the internet tonight, I realize that what I saw in Dennis were the same things that other people saw in him. He loved, and you knew it. He treated everyone the same. 

One person commented, "I wish I could be more like him." Another, "If we were all more like him, the world would be a better place."  And as a dear family friend put it, "We all have a Dennis-sized hole in our heart."

As early as I can remember, Uncle Dennis was the funny one. He loved to pull pranks. He'd prank call my Grandma and Grandpa on the phone, changing his voice. He had a deadpan sense of humor, so that sometimes you weren't sure if he was joking, but when he could pull one over on you he thoroughly enjoyed it. He loved comedies and wasn't afraid to laugh out loud.

He always had a sense of adventure. He loved to travel and I have so many fond memories of trips with him. He was never lost as long as he had gas, and this would drive my "planning" Dad crazy. We'd drive winding back roads and somehow manage to end up exactly where we were going. Even when we were stuck in a parade in a small town in the middle of nowhere because of a "detour", he kept his cool.

He was our travel guide. He'd hold up his imaginary flag at Disney World or Six Flags or wherever we happened to be, and try to corral us all together.

He loved to fish. One time I can remember begging to go to the pond, and he took me along with them. They packed my tacklebox and tried to convince me to bait my own hook. I didn't go on anymore fishing trips, because "fish don't like noise, and you don't know how to be quiet."

When I didn't make cheerleader my sophomore year, he decided that maybe what we all needed was a shopping trip. We drove to Lexington, and then he decided that maybe we just needed to go on to Florence... so we did.

He wasn't afraid to sled down the biggest hill at Papaw's house, and he would get right out and make snowmen with us, sometimes in short sleeves.

He introduced me to sparklers on hot July nights under the trees at Mamaw Bert's house.

He was patient and allowed me to test drive his Bronco when I was about 14... and didn't even complain when I ended up in the ditch and he had to get us out. I still can hear him saying, calmly, but firmly, "Lauren, listen to me. Lauren, listen to me. Lauren... now next time maybe you'll listen to me."

He lived his life in a quiet, unassuming way (except when he was laughing). He was a behind the scenes type of guy, but he influenced others in the small things.

Family is a funny thing. Sometimes you've got nothing in common except these genes and this common bloodline, but you're forever connected whether you like it or not.

Some of us choose to embrace it.

Some of us avoid it like the plague.

But like it or not, in many ways, our family shapes who we are.

And tonight I can honestly say that in this case, I hope that will be true.

I hope that the legacy that was my great-Uncle JB's... one of service to His Lord and to others and his family and friends... will be mine.

And I hope that even though my personality is nothing like Uncle Dennis's, I will be able to influence others as he has. By accepting them. Loving them. Impacting through small deeds.

Great men don't always change the world through the big and grand.

Truly great men change the world around them, and that small trickle reaches someone else, until generations are affected.

And yes, life is full of misery... but as I was reminded last night, Earth has no sorrow that Heaven can't heal. We're just pilgrims passing on. And tonight, as heavy as my heart is, I don't mourn without hope.

I'm trusting in Jesus... and He'll hold my hand.

Just like He held Uncle Dennis's...

"This would be my prayer dear Lord each day,  To help me do the best I can.  For I need Thy light to guide me day and night  Blessed Jesus hold my hand."

Thank You, Lord, for these who are mine for this short time.


  1. Beautiful. You are very blessed with a sight to see the riches all around you. Thank you for a glimpse into your world.

  2. Robin, what a beautiful and honoring memorial to your uncle. After reading it, I almost feel like I knew him.